A group of Muslims, dressed in Muslim garb, who recently went to Venezuela to obtain visas to travel for a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, was detained on suspicion of being terrorist.
The group comprising three Imams, five Trinidadian Muslim men, six women and eight children were held after a raid by Venezuelan authorities at the Plaza Hotel in Caracas last month.
Since then, 14 women and six children have returned home but the other Trinidadians are being questioned about a plot to topple the Venezuelan government, where there is ongoing civil unrest and anti-government protests.
Intelligence sources in Caracas said, “President Nicholas Maduro had obtained crucial information about the plot from members of the El Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN) and has ordered an investigation into the report.
It is alleged that one of SEBIN’s very own was held in the exercise along with others.
They were identified as Rafael Jose Duran of SEBIN, Gregorio Socorro Montanez of the Bolivarian national police and Fery Hernan, from the Chacao police.
Their names were published for the first time in a Venezuelan newspaper last week and it is alleged they were training the Trinidad nationals along with a Guyanese and a Haitian – both naturalized citizens of Venezuela – how to handle firearms.
The men were held in the hotel with 61 T&T passports, which the Imams claimed they took to Venezuela to obtain visas at the Saudi Arabian consulate for Trinidadians to travel to Saudi Arabia.
Investigators also confiscated US$102,000 in cash that were in the possession of one of the Imams, who is attached to a mosque in Central Trinidad.
They also alleged to have found military-style uniforms and Jihadist videos.
The Venezuelan media identified the Trinidadian men who appeared before an Anti-Terrorism tribunal Court as: Dominica Clive Pitilal; Andre Joseph Battersby, Asim Luqman, Charles Wade and Leslie Doisley for the alleged commission of crimes of terrorism, and criminal association.
The Trinidad and Tobago government sent a team of National Security officials, headed Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall to Venezuela recently to try and get a resolution to the matter.
Imams Salam Abdul, Hamza Mohammad and Sheik Hamid Hassan were expected to face a tribunal this week to clear any wrong-doing.
The three Imams have denied they were involved in any terrorist plot and the Venezuelan authorities have not found any evidence that they were terrorists.